The Leatherman Story

Made of mettle
The story of the Original American Multi-tool inventor, Tim Leatherman.

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Made of mettle

The story of the Original American Multi-tool inventor, Tim Leatherman.

“There’s a fine line between perseverance and failure to accept reality.”
Tim's signature
Tim and Chau
Tim with a Fiat
Chau with a Fiat by a roadsign
Why yes, there is
a Mr. Leatherman

Tim Leatherman (an Oregon native) received his Mechanical Engineering degree from Oregon State University. While on a budget trip to Europe in 1975, Tim and his wife Chau constantly came across leaky hotel plumbing and road-side fixes for their cranky Fiat. Tim realized the need for a pliers based, multi-purpose tool. "I was carrying a scout knife and used it for everything from slicing bread to fixing the car. But I kept wishing I had a pair of pliers!".

When Tim came back to the states, he took his “multi-tool” idea, some sketches he made on the trip and got to work.

Unwavering Perseverance

When Tim started on the prototype for this new tool, he estimated it’d take him a month. Instead, it took the next three years to build the prototype he envisioned and file for a patent. With the patent application and prototype in hand, he set off to sell his idea. Unfortunately, the companies he approached didn’t bite. Knife companies thought his invention was a tool, and tool companies thought it was a gadget. Neither were interested.

For another three and a half years, Tim faced one rejection letter after another. Until he partnered with his college friend, Steve Berliner, and in the spring of 1983, they received their first order for 500 tools from Cabela's and launched the first Leatherman tool.

The Original

The original Leatherman tool was called the PST, or known as the Pocket Survival Tool. Eight years in the making, the PST comprised of 13 different tools and folded up into a five ounce, four inch toolbox. In the first year of business, Tim and Steve hoped to sell 4,000 tools; instead, they sold 30,000. And over the next decade, they would sell over one million PST multi-tools.

Explore the photos below see more of Tim’s journey from his garage to the birth of the Leatherman multi-tool.

Eight Years In The Making
Oregon outline
Proud Oregonians Since 1983

Under one roof in Portland, Oregon, we embrace that same innovation, drive and dedication today. No matter the challenge or task at hand, we refuse to give up. Like Tim, and the people we build our products for - the builders, workers, problem solvers, pioneers and adventurers - we too are doers. And we won't stop until it's done, and done right.

It's what makes us proud to be Oregonians. And it's what makes Leatherman an American brand.

“We Will Forever Be An Oregon Company”
Tim's signature
Our Testing Facility:
The Pacific Northwest

We build and manufacture all of our tools in Portland, Oregon. And when it’s time to put our tools through their paces, we test them in the great Pacific Northwest. From hiking in the rugged Cascade Mountains, fishing off of the beautiful Oregon coast, or exploring the high desert in the east, we ensure our tools are reliable for any adventure or task, big or small.

We invite you to try our tools for yourselves, or read people’s stories of saving the day with quick-thinking, their own two hands, and a Leatherman.

Factory Shot One
Factory Shot Two